Papa lives in Southern Nigeria. Even though there are tales of its sojourn in the South-South region of Nigeria, it appears that Papa makes its home in South-West Nigeria – these people are more acquainted with Papa’s escapades.
I first heard and came into contact with Papa in November, when I was sent to the NYSC Orientation Camp, Ikare-Akoko, Ondo state.
Papa was in our vicinity, its presence felt in increasing measures as our days turned into weeks.
Being a corp doctor, I was mostly in the clinic, attending to sick corp members and other NYSC officials who were camped with us.
– NYSC orientation camp, Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. Shot on my Samsung Galaxy J6+.
It’s no secret that the medical personnel on camp find it easiest dodging parade, on grounds of being on duty in the clinic. This has been a norm over the past years and it was no different for my colleagues and myself. Unfortunately, things turned a bit sour for us after a while, with our clinic head protesting the number of doctors in the clinic each morning, and insisting that those whose names were not on the roster for a given day should go to the parade ground.
– After morning parade a certain day.
There are two parades. The morning and evening parades. I loved going for the first because it ended with a dance exercise, led by the man-o-war officials, and performed to songs coined with hilarious lyrics.
I often left after the dance exercise and did not bother going for the evening parade on most days. Being in Ondo state, the sunshine state, the sun was usually out in its glory and I failed to go camping with my sunscreen. Rather than burn under the heat of the sun, I took to spending the time in the camp clinic, either attending to patients or passing time with fellow medics.
My ordeal with papa began on one of the morning parades. I felt an insect fly over my left eye and instinctively shoved it off my face in an attempt to prevent it from getting into my eye.
I panicked for a moment afterwards and wondered whether or not I killed the insect. I hoped for my sake that I didn’t. ‘It could have been papa,’ I thought worriedly.
The day went on well until later in the evening when I started feeling mild pain over my left eye. It was in the middle of a card game. I asked a colleague sat next to me to look at my eye and see if he could note anything. He said that he couldn’t. Another looked and declared that I might have been stung by papa. Everyone’s attention then was piqued and I admitted to shoving an insect off my face in the course of the morning parade.
My worry escalated. I could not concentrate on the game anymore. I needed to address the situation as soon as I could. I immediately applied a triple action cream – analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial – over the area. Took a tablet of Loratadine to arrest any possible itching. I can’t clearly recall all I did at that moment but I probably overtreated myself.
The rash subsequently morphed into something worse, the inflammation grew with each daybreak, becoming more swollen, painful and reddened.
– The peak of my eye inflammation.
Two days into my ordeal, before the swelling grew in leap and bound, a friend who was also a senior colleague advised me to refrain from using steroid containing cream over my eye. So, I ditched the triple action cream for penicillin ointment to prevent secondary infection of the wound.
Gradually the wound began to break down, giving off pus, which I cleaned off at intervals and necessitating my switch to an oral antibiotic and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
At a point, my eye looked like a burn wound. A friend communicated to me how someone had asked if I was hit in the face by perhaps a blow. It was humorous and sad all together.
Healing was a slow and painful process. At some point, I had to purchase sunglass to cover my eyes in a bid to cut down the sympathy party. You could not help but feel sorry for me and ask what happened to my eye. A certain woman, a tailor on camp thought it had a spiritual undertone – not merely mine, but the increasing incidence of the insect bite on camp. I only agreed that the camp needed fumigation, especially before the next stream of corp members arrive, three days following our exit from camp.
Papa goes by other sweet names. It is also known as ‘skirt and blouse,’ quite a famous insect it became on camp! Dressed in dark orange and black. Its scientific name is rove beetles.
– (In)famous papa 🙄
Research has shown that Papa neither bites nor stings but causes skin irritations and blisters when accidentally brushed or crushed against the skin. This provocation causes it to release the coelomic fluid it carries which contains a strong blistering chemical, Paederin.
Did you know this chemical is considered more potent than cobra venom?
What to do when one comes into contact with Papa:
All of the treatment regimens I have seen prescribe washing the area and your hands with soap and water after contact with the insect.
A study postulated that the best outcomes were achieved when a topical steroid, antihistamines (on the first day) and antibiotics were combined. I can’t say much for this because the location of mine was a delicate and sensitive part of my body. On other parts of the body, a topical steroid may be acceptable.
The entire process may last from two weeks to three weeks. I can attest to this.
Some persons in camp proposed applying toothpaste over the rash and getting a certain leaf from a trader in the mammy market, but it came across to me as putting salt in your bath water to prevent contracting Ebola, as some Nigerians did during the epidemic.
I had been healthy for the most part of the camp. Even when this happened I did not let it ruin the entire experience for me. I broke down on a certain day when the inflammation was at its peak, took photos every day to monitor its progress and bugged my friends with my incessant worries and concerns. Their response was always a gentle reminder that it would heal and where they could, they offered more advice and provided the necessary assistance I needed. Thanks, guys!
I resorted to hiding my inflamed eyes behind a dark lens since I could not completely get away from taking group and solo photos.
My eye is still healing but it is a lot better than it used to be and I am thankful, excited and patiently awaiting full recovery.
– What recovery looks like. Day 7.
Have you heard of Papa? Ever been hurt by it? Know someone who has? Please, share your experiences and thoughts on this insect.